BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh
BBCi CATEGORIES   TV   RADIO   COMMUNICATE   WHERE I LIVE   INDEX    SEARCH 

BBC NEWS
 You are in: World: South Asia
Front Page 
World 
Africa 
Americas 
Asia-Pacific 
Europe 
Middle East 
South Asia 
-------------
From Our Own Correspondent 
-------------
Letter From America 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 


Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

SERVICES 
Wednesday, 30 January, 2002, 18:03 GMT
Spartan life under Tamil Tigers
Children sit in classroom by gaping hole
People live without modern conveniences
Frances Harrison

Rebel-controlled northern Sri Lanka is like a tropical version of Afghanistan.

A generation has grown up without ever seeing a computer, a telephone or even a train.

Children pledge loyalty to Tamil nation
Schoolchildren pledge to fight for the freedom of the Tamil nation
For them modern technology means fighter jets, multi-barrelled rocket launchers and anti-personnel mines.

Now restrictions on journalists visiting rebel territory have been eased and after several years a picture is emerging of civilian life in areas under Tamil Tiger control.

Up to half a million people are living without electricity, running water, telephones or any modern conveniences.

War and poverty

At Kilinochche central college, once the leading school of a district home to 150,000 people, the classrooms have shell holes blown out of the walls.


[The children] don't know about the modern world. They have no idea about computers or even about the new millennium

Kilinochche School vice-principal J Iswaran

Many are open to the air and every part of the school building is pot-marked with bullet holes.

The children, too, bear the scars of war.

"When we look at education, the children here are affected because they don't have enough books, writing paper or stationery," says the school's vice-principal, J Iswaran.

"The other problem is poverty, the poverty in their families. It's clear that because of the environment there is no possibility for them to broaden their knowledge.

"They always have thoughts of war, they don't know about the modern world. They have no idea about computers or even about the new millennium."

Children of the struggle

The morning assembly is called using a school bell that is in fact a piece of scrap metal salvaged from the destruction of war.

The gathering takes place in the open air. One thousand children in their white and blue school uniforms line up to listen to their prefect singing a hymn.


We want to live in peace, we do not want luxuries, we just want freedom

Biology student Ahila

Then there is a minute of silence for the slain heroes of the Tamil separatist movement before they all recite the oath of loyalty.

Tiny children aged five upwards pledged to fight to the end for the freedom of the Tamil nation.

All their lives, they have known nothing but war.

Seventeen-year-old Ahila, who is studying biology in the hope of one day becoming a doctor, says he is committed to remaining in the area under Tamil Tiger control.

"There are a lot of difficulties here compared to the rest of the island but you know the discrimination that Tamils face today," he says.

"I think it's better for us to stay here rather than leave the area. We want to live in peace, we do not want luxuries, we just want freedom."

School supplies shortage

Today the children are on the school playing field learning how to march.

Marching can be taught without any equipment but when it comes to science classes, children and teachers alike complain they cannot do proper laboratory experiments because of a shortage of test tubes and chemicals.


When we compare ourselves with people in Colombo, they have so many things - from computers to everything else

School child

Those few children who have seen the rest of Sri Lanka know what they are missing.

"We don't have all the normal facilities here. When we compare ourselves with people in Colombo, they have so many things - from computers to everything else," one of them says.

"In our district we don't even have enough oil lamps to study because of the lack of kerosene oil.

"There's a big difference between children here and in the capital.

"Our lives are spent running around in a small circle, but when we think about the people elsewhere in the country, they are living much better lives than us.

"But our people are used to hardship so we can endure anything."

See also:

29 Jan 02 | South Asia
Up close with the Tamil Tigers
21 Jan 02 | South Asia
Sri Lanka rebels release war prisoners
16 Jan 02 | South Asia
Tamil Tigers want ban lifted
15 Jan 02 | South Asia
Sri Lanka eases rebel embargo
11 Jan 02 | South Asia
Optimism over Sri Lanka peace
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more South Asia stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more South Asia stories